All of Sarah H's Comments + Replies

Paul Farmer (1959 – 2022)

Thanks for sharing. He’s been one of my heroes for a long time, and I see him as having both strong overlap with certain EA ways of thinking and serious differences.

He was a person who had an unswerving commitment to justice and improving human flourishing. He recognized the utter injustice of health inequalities and was able to articulate that vision so that it could be understood by many folks who don’t typically care about the suffering of far-off people who look different than them. These ways of thinking are central to EA for me: the sense that we hav... (read more)

We should consider funding well-known think tanks to do EA policy research

Thank you for sharing! This seems like a great idea. As Scronkfinkle states, there is indeed currently some EA funding going to existing think tanks through Open Phil--not sure about other large funders--but this definitely seems like an area where more funding may be highly beneficial.  

I particularly like your distinction between technical expertise and decision-making capability as well as your point that this is a promising avenue for spreading EA ideas. I share your concerns about EAs being overly siloed in EA orgs, and it seems like funding EA work at non-EA think tanks could be a good way to counteract some of those forces.

Get In The Van

Fellow UChicago alum here, also from a house with hardcore house culture (save Breckinridge!) and I think your comparison to house culture is useful in understanding some of the caveats of GITV moments. Being part of an intense, somewhat insular group with strong traditions and a strong sense of itself can be absolutely exhilarating and foster strong cohesion, as you say, but it also can be alienating to those who are more on the edges. Put differently, I absolutely think we should encourage GITV moments, but that spirit can go too far. Once you start sayi... (read more)

I think this comment is really good and that it better articulates one idea I was trying to get at with the original post. Thank you!

A Few Strategies for Increasing Productivity

Thanks for sharing these resources, Quinn! I like the discussion of the importance of agendas in the first link and the emphasis on taking notes in the second one; documentation can be so helpful both in the moment and looking back! Glad my writeup was helpful.

Suggestion: Effective Animal Advocacy forum

Thanks for sharing this. I've frankly been consistently surprised by the low proportion of content on the forum that currently relates to animal welfare. For example, most of the EAs I know--even those who aren't focused on animal advocacy as a cause area for activism/career--are vegetarian or vegan, yet I've only rarely encountered content here that's related to dietary choices. It seems to me that encouraging more engagement related to animal welfare and advocacy would be a great place to invest some time and energy! 

However, I'm not sure if a sub-f... (read more)

We are in triage every second of every day

The most common critique of effective altruism that I encounter is the following: it’s not fair to choose. Many people see a fundamental unfairness in prioritizing the needs of some over the needs of others. Such critics ask: who are we to decide whose need is most urgent? I hear this critique from some on the left who prefer mutual aid or a giving-when-asked approach; from some who prefer to give locally; and from some who are simply uneasy about the idea of choosing. 

To this, I inevitably reply that we are always choosing. When we give money only to... (read more)

Annual Reviews Aren't Just for Organizations

I love this! I agree that checking in on whether your life is aligned with your values and aspirations is absolutely crucial. This looks like a promising way of doing it in a more structured way than is typically done. I do a weekly check-in that covers many of the categories you mention, and I’ve found it enormously valuable, but I hadn’t considered doing it for a longer timescale.

I think the closest mainstream American culture gets to something like this is New Year’s resolutions, but those are prospective rather than retrospective and don’t necessarily ... (read more)

Technical Updates to Our Global Health and Wellbeing Cause Prioritization Framework

Thank you for sharing, it's fantastic to see such a level of detail! Minor suggestion: it might be helpful for you to explicitly state that "we" = OpenPhil at the beginning of the post--that's not necessarily clear to folks who aren't as familiar with x-posts from the blog. 

What has helped you write better?

Aggressive editing, with an eye to intention, is the single biggest tool I use for improving my own writing. After I write a first draft, I review my draft with an eye for whether different stylistic choices would strengthen my argument. 

First, I consider the flow of my argument. Does it follow a logical structure, where each step is adequately justified? Is supporting evidence provided at the most advantageous moments? 

Then, I consider my stylistic choices on a number of levels: namely, word choice, sentence type, paragraph-level flow, and work-... (read more)

Can EA leverage an Elon-vs-world-hunger news cycle?

Agreed! Honestly, it seems strange to me that there aren't more EA resources dedicated to getting ultra-wealthy people to contribute to EA causes. Perhaps it's that it isn't very tractable, or that it requires a highly specific skillset, or maybe even that it's bad PR with too much potential for backfiring to be so blunt about it--but this seems like a HUGE opportunity that's currently neglected. EA has been pretty successful from getting buy-in from a decent number of high earners--where "high-earner" is defined relative to the average American income (th... (read more)

(Note: Wrote this before I saw Ben's comment, so there are some redundancies.)

There are a couple of large (for EA) organizations working on this, but their clientele generally prefer privacy, and they work quietly. Unlike 80,000 Hours or CEA, which have very large potential audiences, an advisory service looking to help ultra-wealthy people isn't necessarily going to be visible to people outside that category (which creates the common and understandable impression that such orgs don't exist).

The organizations in question: Effective Giving and Longview Phil... (read more)

I'd actually say there's a lot of work done on recruiting HNW donors - it's just mainly done via one-on-one meetings so not very visible.

That said, Open Philanthropy, Effective Giving, Founder's Pledge, Longview & Generation Pledge all have it as part of their mission.

There would be even more work on it, but right now the bottleneck seems to be figuring out how to spend the money we already have (we're only deploying $400m p.a. out of over $40bn+,  under 1%). If we had a larger number of big, compelling opportunities, we could likely get more mega donors interested.

I tend to agree, and I find the world of UHNW individuals quite intriguing (especially because we don't have many reliable stats on them worldwide). But we do have EAs working for orgs that targeted rich people, like Founder's Pledge [] and Generation Pledge [].
Snapshot of a career choice 10 years ago

Thank you for sharing this! Your and Jeff's EA meetups were my first introduction to the EA community more broadly, and the warm and welcoming tone that you set made a real difference. And in a space that often felt very male and STEM-dominant, it really helped to have another woman to talk to from a direct-work background. You've done so much good for the community, work that may not have been possible if you had ignored your instincts way back then. 

And I appreciate your candor; I know I tend to assume that people who have been more successful weren't wracked with doubt in the past. It definitely helps provide some perspective. 

More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

That's a good point, and I'm inclined to agree, at least on an abstract  level. My question then becomes how you evaluate what the backup plans of others are. Is this something based on data? Rough estimations? It seems like it could work on a very roughly approximated level, but I would imagine there would be a lot of uncertainty and variation.

More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

These are great, thank you for sharing! I really appreciate your framing of your focus on non-EA jobs, especially the language of low-hanging fruit and novelty of EA ideas in non-EA spaces.  I  like that you distinguish between EA as a movement/identity and the ideas that underlie it; I think that too often, we elide the two, and miss opportunities to share the underlying ideas separate from the wider identity. And I also like your point about the importance of integrating EA and non-EA: I feel like there has been a lot of effort dedicated to str... (read more)

Yeah I'd imagine much of the work of bringing EA ideas into spaces where folks might not want the identity is less visible, sometimes necessarily or wisely so. I'd love to see more stories told on forums such as this one of making impact in 'non-EA' spaces, even in an anonymised/redacted way.
More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

I totally agree! You articulated something I've been thinking about lately in a very clear manner; I think you're absolutely right to distinguish the value of neglectedness for funding vs. career choice--it's such a useful heuristic for funding considerations, but I think it can be used too indiscriminately in conversations about career choice.

More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

That's a good point. I don't have any data on this (not sure if this is something addressed in any of the EA surveys?) but my understanding is that you're totally right that most EAs are in non-EA jobs. 

What I was trying to get at in my post was less the thought that more EAs should take jobs in non-EA spaces,  but more the notion that discussions of career choice should take those choices more seriously. My title—More EAs should consider non-EA jobs—could be expanded to be “More EAs should consider non-EA jobs as a valid way of doing the most go... (read more)

More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

Thank you for sharing that! I like your idea about talking to people within these orgs--I know that my sense of how things work has been really changed by actually seeing some of this firsthand. 

I think another element to consider is what level of government we're talking about. My sense is that the federal budget tends to be more politicized than many state and local-level budgets, and that with state and local budgets there's more room for a discussion of "what is actually needed here in the community" vs. it becoming a straightforward red/blue issu... (read more)

Why I'm concerned about Giving Green

Thanks for sharing this. I wasn’t very familiar with Giving Green and you bring up interesting points. I would like to push back against two of your points: 1) that progressive groups are the ones making climate change partisan, and 2) that searching for consensus is the best way to find legislative success in our current political climate. You say that "making climate change a partisan issue might look promising in the short-term given the current Democratic trifecta, though the wafer-thin majority and existence of the filibuster somewhat dampens the case... (read more)

I think you have missed one clear downside: that increasing partisanship will make any action that is passed worse. There have been some clear examples historically of where the association of climate change with left  wing politics has been a negative:

  • The demonisation of nuclear, which has lead to an increase in coal usage in Germany.
  • The rejection of a carbon tax in Washington State because it was not 'progressive' enough, and similar moves in many other states.
  • The inclusion of terrible policies in the 'Green New Deal', like banning air travel (which
... (read more)

Hi Sarah, 

I think you've outlined a case for why you think progressive climate activism is good. I agree that it is good on-net. I think, from his comment, so does Johannes. But when we evaluate charities the typical approach is to look at the expected value of donations on the margin. This is a very different question to "does the thing seem positive overall". 

As one specific example:

Climate change is already a partisan issue. I’d argue that it's partisan mostly not because of what progressive climate activists are doing, but rather because of r

... (read more)